Peering into the night sky, we’ve often waited impatiently for that streak of light that means a shuttle is heading into space.
Since we moved to Florida, we’ve watched the launches from Jetty Park and from our back yard. Last weekend, the Space Shuttle Atlantis, which has traveled more than 125 million miles in space, was just a few feet away from us.
Our family went to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to watch a movie that showed the rocket launch. Smoke swirled around it and, then, began to disperse. The door went up, and what happened next was awe-inspiring.
“That’s when I had goose bumps when I saw how massive the shuttle was,” said Keith, our son-in-law.
This shuttle, after 33 successful missions to space and back, is now the main attraction at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Merritt Island, Florida. The $2 billion orbiter is in the “new six-story, $100 million, 90,000-square-foot exhibit that celebrates the people and accomplishments,” according to its website.
What was even more impressive was when we talked to people who actually worked on the shuttle.
“(Jean Wright) was one of the women who hand-sewed quilt patterns on the shuttle and used threads that could withstand up to 2,400 degrees,” said our daughter, Danielle.
Wright told about how she helped make those quilted tiles which replaced 7,000 of the heavier tiles, mostly from the top of the shuttle. The quilted tiles made by the “Sew Sisters,” made the shuttle lighter and they were less costly to produce.
Terry White also chatted with the guests. He showed us a square of the material that made up one of the tiles. Our grandchildren, Kaitlyn and Connor, watched along with the rest as he poured water into the tile.
“The cool thing was how the material for the tile could soak up as much water as he poured in, but it still didn’t feel wet,” Danielle said. “It can also withstand high temperatures, but remain cool to the touch.”
Our grandchildren aren’t hankering to clamber aboard the next shuttle. They say there’s still too much that’s unknown. But they found it thrilling to see the Atlantis, knowing it was in outer space and in orbit.
How about you? Would you be up for a ride to the Space Station or to another planet?
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Photos taken by me or family members at Kennedy Space Center, November 2013:
* Atlantis shuttle and our grands, Kaitlyn and Connor
* our grandson Connor at one of the activity centers at KSC
Space Shuttle Atlantis launches from KSC – May 14, 2010 (NASA photo) http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/2a/Space_Shuttle_Atlantis_launches_from_KSC_on_STS-132_side_view.jpg/600px-Space_Shuttle_Atlantis_launches_from_KSC_on_STS-132_side_view.jpg